Mendoza is now both DOTC and executive secretary
By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Same faces, no surprises.
Heeding the Supreme Court, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Wednesday replaced Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and at least five other Cabinet officials running for local posts in the May 10 national elections, Malacañang announced.
Ms Arroyo tapped Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza as her new executive secretary in a Cabinet revamp prompted by the Supreme Court ruling that appointive officials running for election were deemed resigned.
Ermita, 74, is seeking a seat in Congress in his Batangas hometown.
Press Secretary Crispulo Icban Jr. admitted that Ms Arroyo’s moves were prompted by the high court ruling that officials running for election were deemed resigned and should leave their posts effective March 2.
Ermita said Ms Arroyo had drawn up her list of replacements as early as Feb. 22 when the high court upheld the constitutionality of election rules.
The Commission on Elections had ruled that appointive officials were considered automatically resigned upon the filing of their certificates of candidacy.
“Since then, the President has been mulling who should replace who in these posts,” Ermita said in a regular Malacañang briefing. However, Ms Arroyo withheld announcing her choices.
“That is the style of the President—she places her cards close enough to her chest about important designations in the Cabinet,” Ermita said.
Also deemed resigned were Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera, Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Director General Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) Director General Augusto Syjuco, Secretary Raul Gonzalez, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and Secretary Edgar Pamintuan of the Urban Luzon Beltway.
Except for Gonzalez, the Cabinet officials had turned in their resignation letters.
All are running for a seat in Congress except for Gonzalez and Pamintuan, who are seeking mayoral positions in their hometowns.
Turnover next week
The Cabinet officials are expected to “wind down their activities” before the weekend for a smooth turnover next week, Ermita said.
Ms Arroyo appointed Solicitor General Alberto Agra as acting justice secretary, Maritime Industry Authority Administrator Ma. Elena Bautista as PMS director general and Syjuco’s deputy, Rogelio Peyuan, as TESDA director general.
She is eyeing Deputy Executive Secretary and Presidential Anti-Graft Commissioner Natividad Dizon to replace Gonzalez as chief presidential legal counsel, according to Ermita.
The President is also considering Deputy Executive Secretary Joaquin Lagonera Sr. to assume Andaya’s post. She had earlier named Agriculture Undersecretary Bernardo Fondevilla as a substitute for Yap, Ermita said.
There is no replacement yet for Pamintuan. In the cases of resigned Cabinet officials whose replacements have not been named yet, their undersecretaries are expected to assume their posts, Ermita said.
Announcement of the reorganization came a day after the high tribunal denied with finality a motion filed by election lawyer Romulo Macalintal to reconsider its Feb. 22 ruling.
Ms Arroyo, who is stepping down on June 30 and is herself seeking a congressional seat, “personally handpicked” Mendoza to be the new executive secretary, according to Ermita.
“It is a position of confidence. Somebody the President has some degree of confidence to be dealing with and someone that the President has confidence to help her and bring in the Cabinet together and that is the main job of executive secretary,” he said.
“We can be sure that the consideration of the President is experience, competence, loyalty and reliability,” he said.
Mendoza previously headed the Philippine National Police and served for nine years as transportation and communications secretary.
Ermita, however, could not say if Mendoza would also act as presidential spokesperson.
Mendoza called his new post as “a very big challenge, a big departure from where I came from.”
He told reporters he was “always a soldier, I always follow orders.”
Mendoza Wednesday attended the Coast Guard’s thanksgiving program in connection with the recent enactment into law of Republic Act No. 9993, the “Coast Guard Act of 2009.”
The Coast Guard will now be attached to the Department of Transportation and Communications to oversee the safety of maritime transport and navigation.
In her speech at the yearend Philippine Economic Briefing at Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati City, Ms Arroyo acknowledged Andaya and Yap for their contributions to the government.
She thanked Andaya for his procurement reforms, and Yap for the creation of 1.8 million jobs in agriculture. With a report from Jerry E. Esplanada